I’m not a hater
I’m a congratulator
When it comes to my fellow man – and to my fellow woman – I am definitely not a hater.
But it’s a different story when it comes to sports teams.
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When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child – which meant that I rooted for the local sports teams.
I vividly remember listening to radio broadcasts the local high school’s football and basketball games when I was a kid – including the 1959 Missouri state high school basketball championship game between the team from my hometown (Joplin) and an all-boys Catholic high school from St. Louis. (Joplin lost.)
I also rooted for the University of Missouri football team, which had eleven straight winning seasons between 1959 and 1969. (I’ve written about the one and only Mizzou football game I’ve ever seen live — a 44-10 shellacking of Oklahoma in 1969, when the Sooners had three #1 NFL draft picks and Heisman Trophy winner Steve Owens on its team.)
|Terry McMillan was Mizzou's QB in '69|
When it came to the pros, I was loyal to the three St. Louis teams – the baseball Cardinals, the football Cardinals, and the NBA Hawks. (Kansas City was much closer to Joplin than St. Louis, but the Kansas City A’s were too pitiful and the Chiefs were not as near and dear to my heart as the chronically underachieving football Cardinals were.)
There was one non-Missouri team I became a fan of quite early, and that team – the New York Yankees – is the only one that I’ve been consistently loyal to ever since.
Why the Yankees? Perhaps because Mickey Mantle – every red-blooded American’s beau idéal when it came to baseball heroes – grew up a stone’s throw away from Joplin, and played his only full season of minor-league baseball for the Class C Joplin Miners.
Or perhaps because the Yankees were featured much more regularly on the CBS Game of the Week broadcasts, which were the only televised games I was able to view as a kid.
Or perhaps because I spent most of my childhood at the local public library, and the Bronx Bombers’ dominance was so overwhelming that the library’s books about baseball history were really Yankee histories.
I think I was equally loyal to the Yankees and the baseball Cardinals until 1968., when I dropped the Cardinals like a hot potato after they gagged up the World Series. (The thought that Bob Gibson would lose game seven after posting the most dominant pitching stats of my lifetime – a 1.12 ERA, 13 shutouts, and 0.85 WHIP – simply never entered my mind.)
|Bob Gibson threw hard . . . very hard|
* * * * *
Once I moved away from Joplin, my team loyalties were more fluid, depending to some degree on where I was living. I remained a diehard Yankees fan (although the retirement of Jeter, Rivera, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, and rest of the Joe Torre-era greats took its toll on me), and my marriage to the boys in pinstripes is one of those till-death-do-us-part deals.
The list of the teams I root against is much longer than the list of teams I like. It’s funny – I’ve had short-term affairs with a number of teams based on geographic proximity or other factors. (For example, I moved to San Francisco and became a fan of the great Bill Walsh-Joe Montana 49ers, but my interest in the team faded once I left the Bay Area.) But once I hate a team, I hate it for life.
There’s often a reason for my ill-will towards a team. For example, I root against the University of Michigan mostly because one of first bosses was an obnoxious Michigan Law School grad. I haven’t worked for that guy in almost 40 years, but I still root for Ohio State when they play the Wolverines. (What’s with those stupid helmets, Michigan?)
And I’m always happy when the University of Arkansas football and basketball teams suck. That’s because my mother was born into a large Arkansas clan, all of whom were vocal Razorbacks backers. My branch of the family was the only one to move out of Arkansas – albeit just barely – and I just had to be the turd in the punchbowl when it came to all that wooo pig sooie crap.
But I can’t really explain my dislike of a number of college or professional teams. (Why have I never liked Notre Dame? I don’t really know.)
I rooted against the Red Auerbach-era Celtics when I was a kid, supporting whichever team had the best chance of toppling them off their NBA pedestal at the time – first the St. Louis Hawks, then Wilt Chamberlain’s Philadelphia teams, then the Walt Frazier-led Knicks.
The same was true of the Green Bay Packers – I cheered for whatever team had a chance to prevent them from winning a championship. That was the Giants for a couple of years, then the Cowboys, then the Chiefs (who lost to Green Bay in Super Bowl I).
I learned to dislike a number of teams when I was a student at Rice University in Houston. There were a lot of obnoxious Cowboys fans at Rice, and I was still loyal to the NFL Cardinals, who rewarded my loyalty by spanking Dallas 38-0 in a Monday Night Football game my freshman year – a game that I viewed on a large TV in a basement common room in my dormitory while giving the Cowboy fans in the audience hell.
Texas A&M – a school I knew very little about before going to Rice – came very close to beating out Arkansas for the #1 spot on my college football “Most Loathed” list.
Why? Keep in mind that this was the early seventies. Rice was liberal by Texas standards, with lots of long-haired guys and braless chicks, while A&M was almost all-male and all-ROTC. Our football players probably weren’t very different from the A&M players, but the cultures of the two schools were polar opposites.
In 1973 – my senior year – the Rice-Texas A&M gridiron matchup was dominated by the Aggies but won in rather fluky fashion by my Owls. Even worse, the irreverent and ragtag Rice marching band had the temerity to poke fun at various sacred Aggie traditions — especially the jackbooted, saber-equipped Texas A&M military marching band – during its halftime performance.
The result was a postgame riot by the A&M ROTC cadet corps. Rice’s administration had to call on the Houston Police Department to escort band members out of the stadium.
Most Rice students had a major problem with the University of Texas, but my rather mild dislike of the Longhorns paled in comparison to the rancor I felt for Arkansas, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma. (I still remember the Texas students doing a hilarious cheer at one Rice-UT gridiron clash: “What comes out of a Chinaman’s ass? Rice, Rice, RICE!” How can you hate a school with such a well-developed sense of humor?)
I could go on and on. I root against Stanford (my college girlfriend went to B-school there), Yale (I went to Harvard’s law school), Duke (I liked the ’78 basketball team, but have pulled against them since the Christian Laettner era), and the University of Miami (too many thugs and criminals on their teams):
As far as professional teams go, I loathe the Mets, the Orioles (who somehow had the Yankees’ number in the early eighties – I sat through far too many Orioles victories over Yankees teams chock full of better-known and higher-paid players), the Celtics (they play in Boston, my least favorite city – although I do like the Patriots), and the local NFL team, the Redskins.
My dislike of the Redskins goes back 40 years, when Washington and the Cardinals were major rivals. The first NFL game I ever saw was a 1975 Redskins-Cardinals game that was won by St. Louis thanks to a controversial touchdown catch by Mel Gray that Redskins fans still bitch and moan about:
|The disputed Mel Gray catch|
I root against the 'Skins today despite the fact that most of my family — especially my youngest son – and most of my friends are Redskins fans. You can chalk it up to me being kind of a dick, I guess.
* * * * *
Which brings us to the ne plus ultra of loathsome sports teams . . . the Boston f*cking Red Sox.
For the first 50 years of my life, I didn’t worry much the Red Sox. If there was one thing in life that you could count on, it was that any Yankees-Red Sox confrontation would end up going the Yankees’ way.
There was the 1978 season, for example. The Red Sox led New York by 14 1/2 games at one point, but the Yankees ran them to ground and won a one-game playoff on the strength of a home run on an 0-2 count by their 9th-place hitter (Bucky Dent).
When the Yankees won the first three contests of the 2004 ALCS, it seemed certain that the Red Sox were going to be the Yankees’ bitches once more – after all, no team in the history of baseball had ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a seven-game series.
But the unthinkable happened. Boston staved off defeat with a couple of fluky extra-inning victories, and suddenly the tide had turned. My son took a bus to see game seven in New York City, and witnessed the worst moment in the Yankees’ long history. (I tried to talk him out of going to the game, but did he listen? No.) New York gave up six runs in the first two innings – which was about what I expected – and went down to defeat with nary a whimper. The Bostonians went on to sweep the Cardinals in the World Series, and the “Curse of the Bambino” was broken at last.
My dislike of the Red Sox has been off the charts ever since. On occasion, I’ve given voice to the wish that the Red Sox team plane would crash. Realizing that such a sentiment is hardly Christian, I’ve amended my wish to one that the team bus has a mishap that results in not a single fatality but plenty of career-ending arm and leg injuries.
Truth be told, I get much more pleasure when the Red Sox fail – as they did in spectacular fashion in 2012, when their final record was an embarrassing 69-93 – than when the Yankees win. (I knew 2012 was going to be a good year when the Sox blew a 9-0 lead and ended up losing 15-9 in a nationally televised game against New York in April.)
Would I sell the Yankees’ soul to the devil if he promised me that the Red Sox would never win another World Series? ABSOLUTELY.
Does that make sense? OF COURSE it does. (Does watching the Yankees bat and leaving the room when it’s Boston’s turn to hit – because only bad things can happen when the Red Sox are batting – make any sense? OF COURSE it does.)
* * * * *
Years ago, when the Yankees were having a good year and the Red Sox had fallen out of contention, my wife – a Red Sox loyalist – announced that she was going to root for the Yankees for the rest of the season because she wanted my son and me to be happy.
“Wouldn’t you pull for the Red Sox if the situation was reversed because you wanted me to be happy?” she asked me.
“You don’t have the slightest idea what it means to be a sports fan,” I replied.
* * * * *
Prince Paul – who was born Paul Edward Huston – got his start in the rap world as a DJ for Stetasonic, one of the first alternative hip-hop groups.
In 1989, he produced De La Soul’s brilliant 3 Feet High and Rising album.
Prince Paul has worked with legendary rappers (Chuck D, Ice-T, RZA, Big Daddy Kane, Coolio) and legendary comedians (Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, and Don Novello – a/k/a Father Guido Sarducci). His Handsome Boy Modeling School album – a collaboration with producer Dan the Automator – is a combination of hip-hop and comedy such as the world has never seen.
“Not Tryin’ to Hear That/Words (Album Leak)” was released in 2003 on Politics of the Business, a concept album that was a follow-up to his 1999 concept album, A Prince Among Thieves.
The concept of Politics of the Business is the concept of following up a concept album that didn’t sell very well (A Prince Among Thieves). This is so meta that it’s meta squared.
Here’s “Not Tryin’ to Hear That/Words (Album Leak)”:
Click below to buy the song from Amazon: